Technology is meant to be here to free up time so we can be present to do what we want with our own lives. To be free to be with the ones we love. But this is a difficult proposition when the medium controls not just the message, but the messenger.
In our media soaked times, with advertisers and institutions screaming for our attention, aching for us to be and do what they want us to, how can we find the time to think for and be with ourselves?
How can we reclaim our freedom? To stop being part of someone else’s economic or social plan and be truly free to think, feel and act out of our own volition? When we are taught how to think, what conversations to hold and news becomes a conversation coat hanger, where and how do we have the time to think for ourselves?
The past and the future are illusions. They exist only in our heads. Dreams of the future are recycled scripts from the past. We are taught that the future is out there. But the future is not ‘out there’, it is here, right here, right now. The future is born out of what we think, feel and do right now. The past ends with what we do now.
Our presence in now does not mean we abandon consequence for short term gain. Being present now is the acknowledgement of the power we have to create the future now. We set the context and basis for the future now. Some of our decisions will have impact for a few days; others have consequences for many years. We can only know what the right decision is by being present in the current reality of all the people our decisions affect. To know this requires us to be present not only in our own reality but the reality of everyone our decisions affect.
Despite the praise and celebration of freedom, when we have it we don't use it because it is frightening.How free are we really to make our own decisions? If we don't have time to be with others and be present in our own lives, how do we even know the decisions we are making are going to benefit us, sustain our freedoms or curtail them?
Sometimes I feel as if I am stuck in a dark theatre, a river of selective memories rushing ceaselessly from my past through the projector of my busy mind. This is not just a metaphor for being presnce, but quite literally, my presence is consumed by the constant distraction of screens. Projections, artifacts, illusions, crisises, nonsense, noise, an unconcious prisoner of so much white noise.
Conversations deteriorate into chats, chats dissolve into acronyms and instant messaging is the coolest thing to do. Fine, if we had no time to connect with each other and this tiny hole in the wall of noise is all we had to stay in touch, but what happens when this is all we do? If this is all we do, staring into screens, when will we have time to be with each other? To look into each others eyes. To hear each other breaht? Filling out time (on screens) removes the need to hold real conversations, to be present with each other.
If there was a Stone Age and an Iron Age, then we are in the Screen Age. Having realised political freedom, we have become slaves to screens. These screens have no tone, warmth or silent expression. We pick the fonts that express our handwriting. We pick the still photo’s that represent our public self.
These screens scream for our attention. Through them we attempt to define who we are and manage our relationships. My skype conversation with the kids is convenient, but when did convenience become the corner stone of fatherhood?
Be it the television set, an email on a computer screen, constantly checking the phone, blackberry or PDA screen for life's instructions, what to do and where to be next. When we play its through a WII, X-Box or gigantic screen in a movie theatre. Screens soak up our time. First we waste time and then it wastes us.
These machines quite literally screen out the human touch. In an age where I am my FaceBook page. I am my logo. I am my Avatar, Skype handle and email address, where is there the time to be myself and be with those I care about in this life? To be with them, here now?
Thankfully there are many proven ways of breaking out of being screened out from realising our freedom.
- Buddhists realise freedom through Mindfulness by returning to our breath.
- Christians realise through Prayer and contemplation of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
- Hindus realise freedom through Meditation and OM.
- Moslems realise it through prayer and supplication to Allah.
- The Talmud advises Jews how to stand and kneel in pray for Blessings.
- Sikhs realise freedom through the teachings of the Guru Granth.
These are some of the ways to rinse the screen out of our minds-eye. Daily baptism. Clues on the paths to freedom and being present here, now.
I am no Luddite, I spend all my time serving and being served by screens. The question is not whether they are useful, but rather whether we are being used by the medium or using it to connect with ourselves and each other in the moment, free to be here now, he says, joyfully, typing into a screen.
Ha, ha! keep time: how sour sweet music is,
When time is broke and no proportion kept!
So is it in the music of men's lives.
And here have I the daintiness of ear
To cheque time broke in a disorder'd string;
But for the concord of my state and time
Had not an ear to hear my true time broke
I wasted time, and now doth time waste me;
Richard II, Act V, Scene V